The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently dismissed a misappropriation case, one of many pending against Facebook, stemming from its Friend Finder service. Plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit alleging state law misappropriation, as well as Lanham Act and unfair competition claims. The Friend Finder service allows user to search their email contacts for Facebook users, while simultaneously publishing to all their Facebook friends the names and pictures of account holders who had used the service. While the court did not agree with Facebook that its broad terms of service unequivocally gave Facebook the right to use Facebook users’ names and photos in such a way, it dismissed the case after finding that plaintiffs failed to allege that such use caused them injury. Although the plaintiffs alleged “injury-in-fact,” they failed to allege any economic or emotional harm. The court concluded this was fatal to plaintiffs’ misappropriation and unfair competition claims. Finally, in dismissing the Lanham Act claim, the court concluded plaintiff, a non-celebrity and not otherwise well-known, had no economic interest in her name.
TIP: While this case was dismissed because there were no damages, it serves as a reminder to companies to fully disclose how personal information will be used.